In our small group recently we were talking about idols of our culture – the things people around us live for. We split into groups of three and chose an idol per group to discuss. One group chose beauty, and they then shared their thoughts with the group. They talked about how the idol of beauty promises respect and acceptance, and how it requires your absolute devotion, and of course that it never delivers on its promises. It might be a surprise to you that it was three men who chose to discuss the idol of beauty. Not once did they refer to, or seemingly think about, the ways in which women seek after beauty. They were looking at the issue from a man’s perspective, and thinking about the men they knew who were slaves to the false god of skin-deep, body-building perfection.
Maybe I’m just slow, but when I read about teaching my children the truth about beauty, I tend to focus on my daughter and not my sons. I expect it will be a bigger issue for her, and maybe I’m right. But my sons need to know what true beauty is too. I can think of three reasons for this:
1. Recognising true beauty will help them worship God. God is the beautiful one – he defines beauty. So if my sons can enjoy true beauty, then they can gaze upon God and enjoy him. They will also see true beauty in God’s creation and give God the glory for it. But if their understanding of beauty is distorted, how can they truly enjoy and treasure God?
One thing I ask from the Lord,
this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
and to seek him in his temple. Psalm 27:4
2. As I learnt from my brothers in our small group, the pressure to be ‘beautiful’ in the world’s terms are in no way reserved for women. As an example, Channel 4 recently made a documentary called ‘Extreme Male Beauty.’ They say, ‘With chiselled flesh and perfect grooming the norm, now it’s men feeling the pressure to look great.’ Perhaps my sons will have friends who are addicted to the gym. Perhaps they will have friends who all the girls fancy. Maybe they’ll see male models in adverts and magazines, or the tweezed and airbrushed actors in their favourite films and they might believe the lie. They might wonder if physical beauty will win them respect and will get them the girl. What a dangerous world they’re living in. I need to teach my son that his heart matters more than his haircut.
3. One day (soon!) my boys will be taking an interest in girls. I know, it’s a horrible thought. But if I teach my sons about true beauty now, I believe I am doing my future daughters-in-law a great favour. This might sound mean, but I do know some men who have clearly been raised well and who have great things to offer in a relationship, but who repeatedly choose women for their physical appearance rather than any inner beauty. I feel sorry for women whose sons have married less-than-lovely women who look good on their arm. I don’t want to be one of those women! For my son’s sakes, and for God’s glory, I want them to marry women who have the inner beauty of Proverbs 31: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (v 30).
If you’re wondering how I’m going to go about this, you are not alone. I might start by figuring out what true beauty is myself! I’m off to buy True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre, and I’ll let you know how I get on…